Sodium chloride, one of humankind’s most familiar crystals. It has something of a bad name, being implicated in high blood pressure, but is also essential to animal life. I have used the crystalline structure of sodium chloride to represent sodium as it is the sodium ions that allow our bodies to generate nerve impulses andContinue reading “Salt crystals”
Our lives depend on the magnesium ion at the centre of the chlorophyll pigment that gives leafy plants their green colour. Without chlorophyll’s ability to absorb photons, plants would not have the chemical energy needed to synthesis sugars from carbon dioxide. Photosynthesis is fundamental to life on earth, supplying most of the necessary energy andContinue reading “Green grows the grass”
Yttrium – another example of the usefulness of rare earth elements, and another element named for the Ytterby mine in Sweden. One of the most important current uses of yttrium is as yttrium aluminium garnet doped with cerium to make white LEDs.
Three of the elements discovered in Scandinavia: holmium, thulium and thorium, the first two discovered in Sweden (in the minerals from the famous mine at Ytterby which yielded eight others) and the third in a mineral from Norway. Holmium is named for Sweden’s capital, Stockholm, and I have represented it with the three crowns thatContinue reading “Scandi design”
Lanthanum and actinium: the two elements that give their names to the lanthanoid series and actinoid series which together form the f-block of the periodic table. The patterns I have chosen are representative of each series: the many applications of the lanthanoids and the radioactivity of the actinoids. Lanthanum compounds have numerous uses, going backContinue reading “Introducing the f-block”
Happy #NationalBunsenBurnerDay! These little burners represent rubidium, one of the two elements discovered by Robert Bunsen and Gustav Kirchhoff in 1861. Bunsen developed his burner with assistant Peter Desaga to give a clean flame and used it in the spectroscope that he and Kirchhoff designed. They wished to study the emission spectra of elements andContinue reading “Bunsen’s burner”
Lithium carbonate is one of the 590 medicines on the WHO Model List of Essential Medicines: those considered to satisfy the priority health needs of a population and that should be kept available at all times and at an affordable cost. The prime use of lithium (as lithium carbonate or lithium citrate) is in theContinue reading “Lithium therapy”
Katherine Schaub, Amelia (Molly) Maggia, Quinta Maggia McDonald, Albina Maggia Larice, Helen Quinlan, Grace Fryer, Edna Bolz Hussman, Hazel Vincent Kuser, Marguerite Carlough, Catherine Wolfe Donohue, Inez Corcoran Vallat, Margaret (Peg) Looney… just a few of the young women, known as the radium girls, who lost their lives as a result of radium poisoning andContinue reading “Radium girls”
Two elements represented by flags, each with a distinctive cross. The Saltire, or St Andrew’s Cross, is the flag of Scotland and represents the only element to be discovered in Scotland. The small village of Strontian in the Highlands grew up in the 18th century around its lead mine and it was in the mineralsContinue reading “Flying the flag”
My last alchemical symbol, used for calx (lime) or calx vive (quicklime) from which calcium takes its name. An example is this table of alchemical symbols by Andrew Bell 1726 – 1809, where it is used for quicklime and is the tenth one down on the left hand side.